Valencia and Leganes played out a 1-1 stalemate in La Liga on Sunday. Valencia find themselves 12th in the table, while Mauricio Pellegrino’s side sits at the bottom of the La Liga table with their first point of the season after five matches. This tactical analysis will find out how they did it.

Lineups

Valencia lined-up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Ezequiel Garay and Gabriel Paulista partnering at centre-back. Daniel Wass slots in at right-back having been converted from central midfield. Dani Parejo captained the side from central midfield, next to Geoffrey Kondogbia in the middle of the pitch. Francis Coquelin, another converted central midfielder, is moved to right midfield, while Maxi Gomez and Rodrygo lead the line up-top.

La Liga 2019/20: Valencia vs Leganes - tactical analysis tactics

Meanwhile, the visitors Leganes lined-up in a 5-3-2 formation. Kenneth Omeruo started at the heart of the defence, with Unai Bustinza and Dimitris Siovas either side of him. Jonathan Silva and Ruiba start in the wing-back positions, while Rubén Pérez, Óscar Rodríguez and Recio formed the midfield. Guido Carrillo and Martin Braithwaite paired up to make the Leganes strikeforce.

Leganes wing pressure

The Leganes back-five allows for Pellegrino’s side to control and cover the centre while aggressively pressing the opposition’s wide players. As we can see below, four Leganes shirts look to suffocate the ball out of the wide areas and completely isolate the two from the rest of their team.

The numerical overloads on the wings could be and have been shown to be very risky but on this occasion, Valencia’s attackers are very well covered for the slim chance that the ball makes it out of the Leganes press.

La Liga 2019/20: Valencia vs Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Leganes set-up a 4v2 in the wide area, while the Valencia front two and central midfielder is man-marked.

In this second example, Leganes push three bodies toward the ball, this time higher up the field. From this position, however, Leganes put themselves in a very vulnerable position high up the pitch. Two central midfielders join the three-man press, opening room for the Valencia midfielders while Leganes leave their two strikers and one spare central midfielder.

As we can see, Leganes’ marking is far too loose, meaning that Valencia have more room to stretch the Leganes back-five and exploit the space left by the wing-back and midfielders.

La Liga 2019/20: Valencia vs Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Leganes commit three bodies far up the field, leaving the strikers and left-over central midfielder.

Valencia’s midfield

Valencia lined-up in a 4-4-2, with Kondogbia and Parejo sitting in the middle of the pitch. Coming up against a 5-3-2, this Valencia tactic had the midfield outnumbered in the middle and stretched to the wide areas, making them incredibly vulnerable.

As we can see below, Valencia’s central midfield are outnumbered by Leganes’ strikers and a creative midfielder. Another midfielder roams free ahead of his defence. Meanwhile, Leganes’ wing-back is dragging Valencia’s right-back, opening an abundance of space on the near side, where there are up to three players available attackers to choose from.

La Liga 2019/20: Valencia vs Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Leganes dominate the centre in numbers while looking to move Valencia’s full-backs and central midfielders out of position.

In this second example, Leganes stretch the Valencia team between the two sides, creating a gaping gap in the middle. This is due to an overcommitted press and cage on the near side, while the cage on the far side is too widespread.

This leaves the near-side wing-back in open space and two players who are poorly caged and can exploit the space in the middle. Valencia’s midfield structure made for a set-up that is vulnerable to aggressive attacking play, which brings us onto our third and final piece of analysis.

La Liga 2019/20: Valencia vs Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
The Valencia defensive set-up is split down the middle, with one cage unnecessarily aggressive, while the other was well placed but too loose.

Leganes’ central dominance

As previously mentioned, Leganes set-up to dominate central areas with numerical advantages in central midfield. This is shown below, as Valencia have the ball wide, Leganes set-up a cage around Valencia’s creative players, while leaving a spare man in the middle. And, unlike Valencia’s cages, any white jersey inside the cage is kept on the perimeter, so that they are easy to press should the ball be dropped into the zone.

La Liga 2019/20: Valencia vs Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Leganes set-up a pressurised zone, keeping Valencia’s creative attackers kept close.

As we can see below, Leganes completely control the central areas, while completely isolating Valencia’s creative players. Leganes’ midfield shape completely controls the state of play, with a compact shape stopping Valencia from playing expansive football. This forces Valencia’s midfielders to drop back to receive the ball, which invites pressure and forces the home side further back into their own half.

La Liga 2019/20: Valencia vs Leganes - tactical analysis tactics
Leganes set-up a compact shape which isolates Valencia’s attackers, forcing them to drop deeper to get the ball in a bid to expand the team further up the field.

Conclusion

Overall, Leganes should have more points on the board than they do after five matches. Pellegrino has introduced an interesting set-up, which looks to trap teams at the touchline and dominate the central areas. This was done fairly effectively in this match, with one moment of poor defending resulting in a penalty kick.

Meanwhile, Valencia did not choose the correct set-up for a game in which they were clear favourites with the quality that they have in the lineup. However, Valencia’s midfield shape was far too easy to change and manipulate given the lack of numbers in the middle of the pitch.



Artwork by @chapulana

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Ciaran O'Hare

Writer/Analyst at FBA
Leeds United and Falkirk fan, podcaster and radio producer. I love to dive deep into the art of football tactics and the sport's greatest stories.
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